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Home-field race heats up atop Power Rankings

@alysonfooter
August 5, 2019

Most teams involved in some sort of race to the postseason are not yet in a position that they know if they'll definitely make it to October. But there are a few clubs with such healthy leads that they don't have to worry much down the stretch about securing a

Most teams involved in some sort of race to the postseason are not yet in a position that they know if they'll definitely make it to October. But there are a few clubs with such healthy leads that they don't have to worry much down the stretch about securing a spot.

For those clubs, the focus has shifted from worrying about winning the division to doing everything they can to capture home-field advantage in October.

At this point, it really boils down to two teams in the American League fighting it out for the best record. The Astros, winners of 14 of their last 17 games, have the most wins in the AL (73). They are essentially neck and neck with the Yankees, who have 72.

Until recently, it looked as if the Dodgers would have home-field advantage all the way through the World Series, assuming they make it that far. And for the first two rounds, their standing appears to be safe. It would take a combination of a colossal meltdown by the Dodgers and an unprecedented run by the Braves to even make it a race for the best record in the NL.

But the Dodgers' guarantee for home-field advantage in the World Series is no longer a foregone conclusion. Yes, they have a fantastic record at 74-40. But they're only a couple of percentage points ahead of the AL leaders. This could affect how the managers maneuver through the final week to 10 days in September, long after the division titles are wrapped up.

On to the rankings...

Biggest jump: The Rays jumped six spots, from No. 12 to No. 6. They recorded their sixth consecutive win on Sunday, matching a season high. After sweeping Boston and Miami, the Rays have a real chance to keep surging in the AL Wild Card race, given they're in the midst of a 21-game stretch against teams currently under .500. Their series with the Marlins precedes matchups with the Blue Jays, Mariners, Padres, Tigers and Orioles.

Biggest drop: The Red Sox dropped five spots, from No. 7 to No. 12. Boston keeps waiting for the turnaround to happen, but time is dwindling. The Red Sox lost to the Yankees on Sunday and were swept in four games, hammering home one of the main problems of the season: The Sox can't beat good teams. They're 22-34 against teams currently .500 or better. Boston's loss in the finale at Yankee Stadium was their 55th, one more than its entire total from 2018.

1. Astros (2 last week)

Their record is similar to the Dodgers, but there really isn't a debate about who is the best team in baseball, right now. The Astros had a good rotation, anchored by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and made it exponentially better with the addition of a third ace in Zack Greinke. What's more, their under-the-radar Trade Deadline acquisition, Aaron Sanchez, threw the first six innings of the Astros' four-pitcher no-hitter on Saturday.

2. Dodgers (1)

The Dodgers are right behind the Astros with an offense that seems to be able to overcome any pitching deficiencies that pop up, mainly in the bullpen. Los Angeles has won 14 of its past 21 games and has scored 139 runs with 43 homers during that stretch. The Dodgers have the best run differential in the Majors at plus-172, ahead of the Astros (plus-147) and Twins (plus-141).

3. Yankees (3)

The Yankees' starting pitching issues have been a long-standing topic of conversation, but overall, they've done plenty to stay ahead of the pack in the AL East. While the Red Sox can't beat the good teams, the Yankees are having success in that area, and that's been the difference-maker. The Yankees are 37-18 against winning teams in 2019, the best record in the Major Leagues in that category.

4. Braves (5)

The Braves bolstered their bullpen with three relievers at the Deadline -- Shane Greene, Mark Melancon and Chris Martin -- and, with a seven-game lead, are in good position to capture the NL East title. Overall, the Braves have won six of 10 and they're also 8-4 on the road since the start of the second half, an encouraging mark as the embark on a seven-game road trip through Minnesota and Miami.

5. Twins (4)

The Twins shut out the Royals on Sunday to capture their sixth win in seven games. They've scored 49 runs over that stretch and have recorded 16 homers. Nelson Cruz had a three-homer game Saturday, his second in just 10 days. He also homered three times vs. the White Sox on July 25. Cruz has hit 12 homers over his past 14 games, and despite missing 19 games on the injured list from mid-May to early June, he has 30 homers this year.

The rest of the Top 20:

6) Rays (12 last week)
7) Indians (6)
8) Athletics (11)
9) Cardinals (8)
10) Cubs (10)
11) Nationals (9)
12) Red Sox (7)
13) Phillies (13)
14) Giants (14)
15) Brewers (15)
16) Mets (20)
17) D-backs (16)
18) Angels (17)
19) Rangers (18)
20) Reds (19)

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.